I cross over into New Hampshire and through the White Mountains on a clear but freezing day. Ghostly veils of dry snow blow across the road in front of me. Today I’ve got to drive straight through in order to make it to a hostel in Conway for the night and I miss a lot of the scenery in the dark, but I decide to remedy that by making a huge loop around the mountains from the hostel tomorrow.
I start along the Kangamangus Scenic highway, which I probably would have driven anyway for no other reason than just because it has such a great name. Along the way I stop and tramp through the snow to some scenic sites. My hiking boots aren’t right for the snow, but I’m wearing wool socks and underarmour, so I don’t even notice that my jeans are wet up to my knees. And it’s totally worth it. I made it to Sabbaday waterfall, which was flanked by ruffles of ice along the edges of the stream. Then I stopped at a formation called The Basin, where a cascade hits a wall of resilient rock resulting in a whirlpool churning at the base of the falls. I’m almost more impressed by these sights in the winter. They seem more mysterious and wonderful when the trails leading to them aren’t packed tight with the footprints of the thousands who have been there before. With the snow and lack of visitors, it feels more like I’ve discovered something.
As I make my way around the loop I decide to pop back into Vermont in St. Johnsbury because my guidebook describes it as a Victorian town and I’m a sucker for those. I stop by the Fairbanks nature museum. Housed inside a beautiful churchlike building, the museum showcases what started as a personal collection of unique naturalist finds. The eclectic mix includes ancient Egyptian artifacts alongside Victorian dolls and a mosaic portrait of Abraham Lincoln made entirely out of bugs. But the entire first floor is devoted to the founder’s true obsession of taxidermy. And while many people would be creeped out by so much taxidermy packed together, I’m just impressed by the lovely collection. Especially the birds, which are grouped together on small display trees with other species from their locations around the world. I’ve never seen half of the species. The diversity is amazing and I get that illusive feeling that there are still mysteries in the world and things to discover.
On my drive back to Conway the snow starts coming down heavy. I do catch another glimpse of Mt. Washington but this time it‘s through a haze of snow. I’ve decided that I will have to come back to New England someday in the Fall. And I know I’ve got to add driving to the top of Mt. Washington to my plans for that trip.